As the University turns 60, Fr. Robie Sian, main celebrant of the Foundation Day Thanksgiving Mass on July 5, urged the Lasallian community to keep the Diamond Jubilee Year holy. In his homily addressed to the USLS family, he added that all must help in promoting love and justice.
Transforming Lives, Building Communities, Shaping Futures.
Homily of Fr. Robie Sian during the Jubilee Foundation Week Eucharistic Celebration
"My dear fellow La Sallians, after my former grade 3 teacher, Ma'am Linda Ferrer, gave me the scripture readings for our 60th foundation day anniversary, I saw that the first reading and the gospel were both about the jubilee year as celebrated by the Jews. It is celebrated every fifty years and is to be celebrated as mentioned in our first reading, Leviticus 25:10, "Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants."
To celebrate this once in a lifetime and special event, therefore, calls for its celebrants to consecrate this year which means to make it holy. And secondly, to proclaim liberty, in other words, to promote liberty and freedom to the oppressed.
As I pondered on what it means to celebrate a jubilee year, my thoughts, without my knowing why, started returning to my days in Cambodia where I was sent as a missionary in 2004-2005. My memories were about the "slavery" and bondage of Cambodia's poor which, even if I come from our poor Philippines, were still able to shock me, as we would sa in Ilonggo: Daw matindog ang akon balahibo sa pagkapigado sang mga tawo didto. For examples: Poverty there is so bad that the poor there would sell their government Social Security numbers. One of the teachers in the vocational school, where I worked, proudly showed me that he owned four other security numbers aside from his own; a carpenter had already sold his projected income for the next three years. My list of sad memories can go on and on but what stands out was when an NGO raided a seed hotel, rescuing about 60 female child prostitutes. The 60 minors, in their high school to college years, were then brought to the safety of the NGO's compound, safe & rescued, or so they thought. Not more than a day after the rescue, the owner of the seedy hotel, in other words, the pimp raided the NGO compound, re-kidnapping the 60 child prostitutes to bring them back as slaves to his hotel of prostitution!
But we don't have to dwell on the miseries of Cambodia's poor and oppressed, fellow La Sallians. We here in our beloved Philippines also have our fair share of misery and suffering as well. Poverty is still our most critical issue. According to the National Anti-Poverty Summit shocking truth, according to that summit, is that 25 years after the EDSA revolution, despite the so called democracy, freedom and developmental work since then, the Philippine poverty situation has not only changed but even gotten worse. 1 out of every 4 Filipinos are officially poor. 1 out of every 2 Filipinos meaning every other Filipino is unofficially poor. According to a 2011 SWS Survey, 19.2% Filipinos say that they eat only ONCE A DAY. From 2003-2009, according to Lila Ramos Shahani, the number of poor Filipinos increased fom 19.8M to 23.1M. Lastly, the income of the top 1% Filipino families is equal to the income of the bottom 30% Filipino families, meaning that the gap between the rich and poor continues to grow.
Why am I repeating, reiterating the state of our country, to which we seem to have accepted and be comfortable with? For the simple reason that we are celebrating La Salle Bacolod's diamond jubilee. If we are to make the most of this La Sallian jubilee year, make ti meaningful and significant then we must obey our Lord's prescription on how we are to celebrate our special jubilee year. Let me repeat the passage from our Leviticus first reading: Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. As La Sallians celebrating our jubilee year of the Lord, we are, therefore, invited, we are called, we are challenged to consecrate our 60th year, make it holy by promoting love and justice throughout our beloved Philippines to all Filipinos!
Why is Fr. Robbie telling us about the poor during our Jubilee celebration? Why does he have to be a KJ during or joyful celebrating?
Allow me to make my point with a story of an American Vietnam War veteran. This soldier was finally coming home after having fought in Vietnam. He called up his parents from San Francisco.
"Mom and Dad, I'm coming home, but I've a favor to ask. I have a friend I'd like to bring home with me."
"Sure," they replied. "We'd love to meet him."
"There's something you should know," the son continued. "He was hurt badly in the fighting. He stepped on a landmine and lost an arm and a leg. He has nowhere else to go, and I want him to come live with us."
"I'm sorry to hear that, Son. Maybe we can help him somewhere to live."
"No, Mom and Dad, I want him to live with us."
"Son," said the father, "you don't know what you're asking. Someone with such a handicap would be a terrible burden to us. We have our own lives to live, and we can't let something like this interfere with our lives. I think you should just come on home and forget about this guy. He'll find a way to live on his own.
At that point, the son hung up the phone. His parents heard nothing more from him. A few days later, however, they received a call from the San Francisco police. Their son died after falling from a building, they were told. The police believed it was a suicide.
The grief-stricken parents flew to San Francisco and were takent o the city morgue to identify their son's body. They recognized him, but to their horror they also discovered something they didn't know – their son had only one arm and one leg."
The parents in this story pretty much remind us of ourselves. We find it easy to love those who are good-looking, fun to have around, more or less belonging to our same socio-economic level. But we don't like people who inconvenience us or make us feel uncomfortable, like the have-nots, the weak, the poor. We would rather stay away from people who aren't as well-off as we are.
Thankfully, God doesn't treat us that way. God loves us with an unconditional love that welcomes us into His forever family, regardless of how messed up, how poor we are in His sight.
Because of His great love for us, we are to reach out to others in the same way. My dear fellow La Sallians, as it was mentioned in our Gospel reading this morning, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon you, because He has anointed you to proclaim good news to the poor." The Lord has anointed you, He has blessed you with a La Sallian brand of education. A La Sallian education which allows and equips you to transform lives, build communities, & shape futures.
Allow me to continue the Gospel reading addressed to every La Sallian present here this morning. "He has sent you to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.
That's why I was touched to see in your programme the launching of Jubilee Flagship projects, reminding us that the gift and blessing of our La Sallian education is to be shated with our less fortunate sisters and brothers as well. Allow me to go over them: Busog Lusog Talino, Living Tree Museum, Save Cabakhawan River, Free Cycle Drive, Carbon Neutral, and scholarship grants.
May these projects and may more to come reflect our efforts to imitate and be one with Christ, as He confidently announced the advent of God's kingdom in our Gospel. "Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing."